It must have been the loud smack of the unhinged window slamming on the side of the manor, the large gust of wind, that awoke Emmett Morganson that night. He bolted upright, thinking it to be a robbery or other petty crime. He sighed and looked around his room as he realized it was just his window, taking a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
A dim shimmer of sunlight shone through his window, lighting up his room, but only slightly. "Light..."
Emmett decided to get up; it was near his time to get ready for the day ahead anyway. He rubbed his eyes, stretched one last time, and stepped off from his bed.
He slipped on his daily wear; an outfit of dark leather and cloth, accompanied by a thin piece of plate and a black cloak. He grabbed his journal that he carried with him everywhere and strapped it to his belt, alongside a knife and a quiver.
On his back he had a custom-made longbow, one he had used for many years and it had yet to fail him since. All seemed to be in order in the small town of Vardenac, located in the far reaches of the Alterac Mountains.
Emmett had been busy the past few years; ever since making away with a hefty sum of wealth from a heist of the Kaledonian treasuries and leaving the Kingdom of Axton, he found it upon himself to refound the Vardenac Society and attempt to bring it back to its glory days, no longer a simple assassin's league; but now a legitimate community, made up mostly of assassins, but now taking on various members from all walks of life and abilities.
This was going to be the big day, though; Tavion Calston, an esteemed paladin, the son of Baridan Calston and a close friend of Emmett, was going to sail to Pandaria -- which Tavion knew as Orientem -- later tomorrow from Stormwind. Emmett had made the decision of going with him after hearing tales of it from a bear-man who called himself a “pandaren”.
Klyde Vardenac, another close friend of Emmett and the original founder of the Society, was supposed to make an appearance for the first time in about two and a half years. Klyde was a legendary assassin and fighter, even taking up the arcane and using it to his advantage.
Where he went after the Society fell, no one truly knows. Emmett only knew he took on various guises and escaped capture of a purported ten-thousand gold bounty on the Society. Emmett, too, took steps to avoid this. He faked his own death and came back as an elder nobleman in Kaledonia, and took up the position of a banker.
After finding himself displeased with the state of Kaledonia, Emmett decided to give up his guise after nearly a year of hunting and returned to Axton, then welcomed as a noble there from his contacts within. After discovering that Deathwing was poised to destroy the entire world in his Hour of Twilight, Emmett decided to leave the Kingdom and remain a lone wolf for the purported last days of Azeroth, but he didn't hesitate to rob Kaledonia's treasury and hear of a mystical land to the west, now said to be un-explorable from the impending doom. He decided to set up an expedition to sail for it anyways...
But, this didn't happen. Unnamed heroes, alongside Thrall, saved Azeroth, killed the beast formerly known as Neltharion the Earth-Warder, and secured everyone's fate.
Emmett, now with few plans, decided to press on with the expedition, but not before he met with Klyde.
"Sire, there's a stranger at the gate. He's in dark attire and looks shady, claiming he wishes to see you." A guard said to Emmett.
"Did he give a name?" Emmett said, smirking.
"He only said he was a messenger. "The Messenger.", in particular. What shall I do, sire?”
"Excellent. Let him inside immediately." Emmett motioned to the manor. "Tell him to meet me at the manor. We have a lot to discuss."
Klyde stepped inside the cold manor, admiring Emmett's work silently. He took a nice plot of land and added a nice quaint Gilnean-esque town to it. Just like old times...
He then heard a familiar voice.
"By the Light, Klyde, you look like shit, pardon my Common. As usual, though." Both of them chuckled, and Emmett smiled. "Mighty nice seeing a new face, all the way up here in the mountains."
Klyde nodded. "I wouldn't have missed it for anything. It's been a long time, old friend."
"I knew you'd show up. You couldn't have resisted this offer if you tried, am I right?"
"It is a tempting offer..." Klyde murmured. "As I understand it, you're going to Pandaria with Tavion. What does that leave me with?" He asked.
"Pandaria? -- oh, right. That’s what Varian Wrynn called it. Strange name… Well, as long as me and Tavion are away on this expedition, you're in charge of Vardenac indefinitely. I trust you can keep a town happy and safe?"
"I'm no diplomat, but I'm pretty manipulative.... I could take care of it." Klyde shrugged.
"Well, then I don't see any reason to keep you, and myself, waiting. Why don't we head down to the bar, catch up on some old times?" Klyde merely nodded to the statement, waiting for Emmett to lead the way.
When Klyde and Emmett reached the tavern, Emmett stepped in first, followed by Klyde silently. The wood crackled under their feet, as they stapped inside.
"Sit here. I'll be back with some drinks. What'll you have?" Emmett said to Klyde. Klyde nodded again meekly, giving Emmett a few silver. "Drinks on me. I'll get some pinot noir for now."
Emmett returned with the drinks; a Wintergarde Ale for him, and a bottle of wine for Klyde, and they told their stories, chortling and boasting all throughout the night.
Before long, the sun had slept and the White Lady glowed palely over the town, now much less lively. Only a few bar inhabitants and the occassional beggar could be seen, with a city guard riding by on a mighty stallion. Lights shone all throughout the dwellings, be they exotic or crude, and the entire town glowed a dull gold.
"And then...he leapt into the air and used a form of magic unheard of before...!" Emmett gasped drunkenly. He hiccuped, and apparently found it funny. He burst out in laughter.
Klyde sighed. "I think I ought to bring you home...you've had a drink too many." Emmett didn't protest to this; he didn't really have the mental power to at the time. Klyde lifted Emmett up from his seat, and hoisted one arm over his shoulder, carrying a drunk Emmett back to Vardenac Manor, who was telling drunken tales all the way back.
When Emmett woke up, he groaned and realized what day it was. He'd have to arrange a ride with Gaeval to get to Stormwind from this distance before noon. Klyde was nowhere to be found; he merely left a note on Emmett's door;
"I'll be back sometime soon. Thanks for the memories; keep in touch. Leave messages in the pigeon coop, twelfth door to the blue sundown. You'll know what I mean." Emmett grinned hazily, still half-asleep. “Nice…”
He then realized he'd have no one to watch the town while he was away. "Damnit. That tricky bastard." He'd have to appoint the council to watch over the city.
He secretly hated the council's way of doing things; he preferred someone he could trust over someone who would do a job professionally.
Still, though, Emmett went through with it, and he was on his way down the mountain to Hillsbrad, where he'd find an old friend and colleague of his; Gaeval Thunderblast. Although he once planned to host a space program, the idea was seemingly scrapped, though with a gnome's ingenuity, you never know...
In any case, Gaeval still kept a few rockets around for personal use. Emmett could probably net some usage of one; he was one of the primary funders for the space program, in the first place.
He journeyed down the long path that was paved only recently; if you had come here a year ago, these roads wouldn't have existed. He shivered and gripped his coat tighter, rubbing his shoulders to stay warm.
Soon cold looming mountains were replaced with green hills and trees, and Emmett knew he had arrived in Hillsbrad. He journeyed the way he best assumed, walking in a general direction; he remembered that Gaeval's camp was near the ruins of Southshore, but to the east. Since Emmett was traveling from the south, he decided to take the left path when the fork showed.
He occasionally crossed another adventurer, hailing them as he went about his business. The roads of Azeroth were quite diverse, and everyone was seemingly tolerant of each other; even naga travelled these paths without little hesitation. It baffled Emmett at first, but he soon had grown used to it. He wondered to himself if the end-of-the-world scare may have driven off some of the more extreme denizens of Azeroth, but, he thought to himself, you never know.
Soon thereafter he heard an explosion coming directly from ahead of him. His view was blocked by a tall ridge; after he got around it, however, he could clearly see it was Gaeval Thunderblast's camp. Goblins and gnome worked together to build some of the most audacious creations humanoidkind could ever hope to see. As Gaeval always said, there was a way to go about these things, and the answer was unity and diversity. After seeing the wonders that Gaeval managed to create, Emmett thought, he must be right. Sounds of wild cackling were heard from close to a mile away; unstable experiments may have been performed every minute. “In the name of science”, Gaeval’d often say.
Emmett continued jogging along the path, and then slid down a small hill to reach the small depression that Gaeval held camp in. He dusted off his boots, caked in nectar, and looked up.
Many pavillions and tents were held up, no doubt filled with all sorts of rocket-themed carnage.
Emmett smirked at the thought, and continued trudging down the hill, getting a closer view. He looked around for one gnome in particular; He had brown hair and beard, a cowlick-themed hairstyle, and a handlebar mustache to match. Compared to other gnomes, though, he didn’t stand out as much as he used to.
In his younger days, he’d wear a frivolous haircut; half of his hair was spiked beyond comparison and the other half was smooth. He called it “Blades’ Edge Mountains”, as homage to the place in Outland. Now, he had decided to uphold some sort of inkling of an “image”. Not that it mattered to Emmett; you could be insane and still be the executive owner of a space program. He figured the owner of such an organization would have to be in that state already, playing with technologies not understood in the slightest, only that they worked. Sometimes.
Emmett then stepped into camp. Some of the goblins glanced his way, then turned back, more content to make sure he didn’t get “volunteered” as the first test pilot. It was very noisy; clanging, explosions, yelling; all of it was present. And yet still, Emmett could not find Gaeval amongst the controlled chaos.
“By Gnomeregan’s gnarly gnoll-gnashers, I can’t believe it! Emmett Morganson, First of His Name, Lord of Axton and Illustrious Interstellar Intellectual Illusionist! You’re a sight for sore eyes!” Gaeval yelled from across the camp.
Emmett turned around swiftly, looking in the direction the voice came from. Aha..it was Gaeval. Gaeval was sprinting towards him, or jogging at a human’s speed in comparison. He nearly collided with Emmett’s leg, stopping himself short merely inches away. He lifted his goggles up, his clothes caked with oil and dirt, and his hair was moist and unkempt; his traditional cowlick was still visible, but puffed up, as if he touched something electrical. He grinned tiredly, squinting his eyes and staring up at Emmett.
“So, what brings you to Gaeval’s Garage of Galactic Galleys? Need some spare parts? Somethinng blown up? A tuned up ride?” He continued to grin.
“No, Gaeval, but I could use all three sometime in the new future...I apologize for being so punctual, but I need to be in Stormwind in four days. From here, it’d take maybe six or seven. I need you to get me to Stormwind in about an hour. I think you know where I’m going from here.”
Gaeval stared at Emmett uncertainly, and it clicked to him. He suddenly frowned. “Geez, Emm, what got you into dangerous stunts? Only a goblin would do something like this, normally. I’m guessing you want to take the X-52 there. Well, if you want to, but it’ll be dangerous...I can’t guarantee its maneuverability in a thick atmosphere, or how it travels accurately. If you’re willing, though….”
Emmett nodded briskly. “I know the risks. This shan’t be the first time I’ve risked my life, and it certainly won’t be the last. This is a walk in the park compared to fighting a void lord in Vanderton.”
Gaeval chuckled, remembering that fight fondly. It was the only time Emmett had to flee from a fight as far as he remembered, but for good reason; that void lord was attempting to open a rift in the Void, and that would have destroyed the entire arena. Hell itself would have come out of that rift; some say it would have even made a black hole, that would have destroyed Azeroth if left unchecked. “True… But first, I need to tell you something. Come to the inn with me.”
Emmett sighed. The inn was the bane of his worries in the first place. What happens now; Gaeval’s rivals going to bomb him while he was present?
“I’m going to bring back the Azerothian Space Program.”
Gaeval just said it out of the blue. He didn’t give any warning or heeding, he just blurted it out.
“I’m going to need your funding again. As much as you can provide. Most of it will go to charity to make it look like I actually care about the people who I sent up in space and they died.”
Emmett gulped, then blinked. What? “You want me to fund it again? You’re well aware that the last time I funded your program, I was nearly sued by Brandie Blackgold? That was one rich woman...’
“Yeah, but she’s dead now. Don’t ask. Long story short, short answer; Blackgold, Inc. was disbanded.”
“Did it have to do with you?”
“No. Not as much as I wished it did, to be frank.” Emmett smirked at the snide comment. “You want me to fund ASP again. Sure. Didn’t you plan a sort of Ark voyage away from Azeroth when you got wind of the Hour of Twilight?”
“Yeah, I never went through with it. I’m happy I didn’t, it would have been a waste of resources and there was no guarantee we’d ever get anywhere anyways. There was a 99% chance that we were all going to die a cold death before getting anyway, but I of course didn’t share this statistic. If the world was going to end, no one would’ve cared until we were already thousands of miles away from Azeroth. You know. Fun times.”
Gaeval grabbed his flagon and sipped it graciously, setting it down on the counter with a clank. “Ahh, that hit the spot. So...I think you’ll need this. Follow me.” Emmett’s heart lurched; he was going on the rocket with no instructions?
“You’ll need these instructions.” Gaeval said plainly. It was a single, tattered manuscript; letters in Goblin popped up at Emmett, looking at them with curiosity. Thankfully, there were a few illustrations, crude ones, at that; but they helped nonetheless.
“Place seatbelt on...common sense. Wear a helmet… Gaeval will give me one, I hope…. The ejection systems are on the left side. Wow. Ejection systems on a rocket. That must be a gnomish thing.” Emmett said.
Gaeval nodded. “These things were death traps before our...err...ingenuitive hand got to them.” Gaeval looked around nervously, as if to check if any goblins were near him when he said that. There were none. He sighed and looked back at Emmett. “You sure you want to go through with this?” Gaeval said, holding a helmet in his arms.
“No time like the present to try something you’ve never done before. I live by the words ‘try everything once’. Except that one time a draenei “female” asked me to a dinner at a fancy restaurant in Dalaran...I simply walked out while “she” was in the bathroom.”
Gaeval flinched. Those types were all too common. He hoped that they all died or disappeared somehow after the Hour of Twilight to be. Something was telling him that it didn’t. “Heh…”
“Hand me that helmet and get me into the rocket-bay. I’m ready.” Emmett stated, looking over at Gaeval. Gaeval sighed.
“Alright then.” He handed Emmett a radio. “Call me when, or if, you get to Stormwind. My boys in flight control will have the stick for the first few miles. Then it’s up to you. Keep in contact.” Emmett nodded, looking to the horizon. The Great Sea stared back, along with the coast jutting out beyond the horizon, into what would be Gilneas; the original homeland of the Morgansons. Emmett gritted his teeth. “You can bet on it.”
In the rocket bay, Emmett felt his stomach lurch. With only glass and metal plating between him and near-certain death, he tried to grip his fears and remain steadfast. There was no other faster way to Stormwind, he told himself. As the countdown went down, he sighed. 9..8..7… he placed his seatbelt on. 6..5..4… he made sure his helmet was on properly. 3..2..1… he braced himself. Then he felt the thrust; it was very sudden and very quick. Out of his small viewing port, he could see the landscape quickly pass beneath him. The towering pines of Lordaeron gave way to small green dots in minutes
Gaeval waved from the scaffolding, and he could vaguely make out various goblins and gnomes cheering at yet another successful launch. Emmett still felt sick; the entire fuselage and the ship vibrated, along with him, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that it didn’t sound right..
Soon, even the space center disappeared from view, and Emmett was alone. He prayed for it to end and, after about a minute and a half, it seemed to have worked. The craft, being controlled from the ground, shut off its thrust, then reaching a reasonable height, would still be rising; the vibrations lessened, thought Emmett. It would fall after some time, and Emmett knew enough about gravity that he would feel the force of gravity pulling him back to Azeroth. The White Lady shone in the sky above him, twinkling over Kalimdor brightly. From here, he could almost make out Durotar.
The spectre of Kalimdor pierced the clouds below him, highlighting a shallow description of the continent. He could see Teldrassil behind Mount Hyjal, towering over most of Kalimdor. The craft finally seemed to slow down and stabilize, and Emmett hovered in the air for a few seconds. It was alarming to Emmett at first, not being able to sit down in one place, but he was relieved that the seatbelt still kept him in mostly one place. Although it went by as if it felt seconds, the ride had been going on for about an hour at this point. He had made considerable distance.
Then the ship started to fall. He fell back into his seat at an alarmingly fast rate, slamming down painfully. He groaned and heard a small crackle in his helmet. “Emmett? Can you hear me? We’ve lost control! You need to get to Stormwind on your own; be ready to eject and remember, the ground is closer than it appears!” Gaeval said, his voice crackling over the radio. He sounded nervous, but Emmett couldn’t be sure.
“I don’t know how to fly this thing. What do I do?” Emmett stammered, looking at the multitude of instruments near his hands. He was surrounded by dials he hoped he would never have to learn how to use.
“Take those handlebars in front of you, and pull forward on them as hard as you can! You’re in a stall. We’ve still got you on radar; when we detect you’re out of it we’ll tell you to pull up.” A goblin-sounding voice crackled in.
“Wait. Where’s Gaeval?”
“He’s monitoring the radar like a hawk. You’ve had an engine failure; minor issue, really.” The goblin said over the radio. It seemed to be getting worser.
“Where am I right now?”
“You’re over the Arathi Highlands; just watch your -bzzt- itude. Actually nevermind, your altitude won’t help you -bzzt- case. Keep an eye out, you’re still -bzzt- very quickly.” The radio was quickly becoming imcomprehensible to the point of being unsuable.
Emmett pulled forward on the handlebars as far as they could go. The engine hissed with an inhuman whine. Sweat poured up at the bottom of his helmet, and it was humid and uncomfortable as his senses started to give out.
It came suddenly. He tried to look behind him and pull back on it to see if the controls still worked. It went haywire and the ship went the wrong way, falling back into the atmosphere, burning up and falling towards the mountains of Dun Morogh at what seemed an impossibly fast speed.
Emmett didn’t fear many things. But this isn’t how he wanted to die. He looked around, looking for any sort of ejection system. He remembered Gaeval’s words.
“Be ready to eject!”
He was familiar with ejection systems; he had dealt with them in siege engines in the hills of Arastor. He felt under the seat and felt a handle. It felt cold and metallic, but it was reassuring to Emmett.
The ground was growing nearer every second, and even from here, it seems threatened. He had stopped burning up and the ship vibrated with extreme speed; it must have been going a few thousand meters per second. He looked down and made out… snow? He was already in Dun Morogh?
Dun Morogh was going to disappear; He was either going to land in Burning Steppes or just barely make Dun Morogh’s mountains. His altimeter read “48000”, and a small M sat at the bottom. He was going to hit the ground in about thirty seconds. Why did he go to such lengths just to hop on a boat to a land he knew almost nothing about?
He pulled the handle. Nothing happened. Emmett’s heart lurched in fear as he realized he might have been given a faulty ejection system. And when things couldn’t have possibly gotten any worse, he saw a crack in the windshield. The rocket was now cracking at the front from the sheer speed and pressure. He saw pieces of thermal shielding simply fly off, and crash into the back of the thrusters, damaging the rocket even more.
He tried to use the radio, to no avail.
“Can anyone hear me? This is Emmett Morganson! I’m about to hit the ground at…” He peered at the speedometer. It almost didn’t seem real, but he was travelling at about 1600 m/s. “Sixteen hundred meters per second…” No one responded, and time wasn’t travelling any slower, and nor was this death-trap of a transport. He then closed his eyes, and pulled the handle beneath his seat again.
It burst out of the cockpit.
He wasn’t sure if he would ever pilot a rocket again, or even ride one, for that matter, but he just survived one on a course for disaster. He watched it fly off into the distance, two engines now emitting a black smoke. Gaeval was going to be cross, and that may be an understatement, but it didn't matter now.
Still strapped into his seat, he started falling rapidly. He then realized his seat wasn’t so flame-retardant; there was very little air up here and his seat got very hot on the edges. His parachutes were useless up here, and with his falling speed, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t save him anyway. He was, for all intents and purposes, screwed.
To be continued...